Written in the tried-and-tested and bestselling tradition of the Malcolm Gladwell books and the Frekonomics clones, Dan Ariely’s book too is an entertaining and counter-intuitive look at the world around us.
While I am getting more and more inured to this way of analysis of behavioral economics and physchology, these kinds of books are still hard to resist – that is because they do, no matter if they have now become an industry doling out similiar books by the dozens, still stretch our perspectives about the things we normally take for granted or think unworthy of a second thought. In that sense then, this book was “unputdownable” and “highly instructive”.
One of my favorite passages from the book is as follows -
“I suspect that one answer lies in the realm of social norms. As we learned in our experiments, cash will take you only so far—social norms are the forces that can make a difference in the long run. Instead of focusing the attention of the teachers, parents, and kids on test scores, salaries, and competitions, it might be better to instill in all of us a sense of purpose, mission, and pride in education. To do this we certainly can’t take the path of market norms. The Beatles proclaimed some time ago that you “Can’t Buy Me Love” and this also applies to the love of learning—you can’t buy it; and if you try, you might chase it away.
So how can we improve the educational system? We should probably first rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals (elimination of poverty and crime, elevation of human rights, etc.), technological goals (boosting energy conservation, space exploration, nanotechnology, etc.), and medical goals (cures for cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.) that we care about as a society. This way the students, teachers, and parents might see the larger point in education and become more enthusiastic and motivated about it.
We should also work hard on making education a goal in itself, and stop confusing the number of hours students spend in school with the quality of the education they get. Kids can get excited about many things (baseball, for example), and it is our challenge as a society to make them want to know as much about Nobel laureates as they now know about baseball players. I am not suggesting that igniting a social passion for education is simple; but if we succeed in doing so, the value could be immense.”
This is in the same wavelength as some of my thoughts on education -
The point is not to have a vocation oriented educational system, but rather to have a Goal-Oriented one…
I think that the abstractness in what the students want to achieve is a problem arising directly from an abstract education.
A system which promotes and encourages students to fix goals in life early and then helps them in moving towards it and rewards them for moving towards it is my vision of Utopia in Education -
There will not be specific courses and subjects being taught in schools and universities but there will be Goal-oriented teams formed with advisors for them and they work together to learn, understand and develop themselves in any field or knowledge that is required to fulfill their stated goals…
I am hoping to convert this idea on education into a short story or incorporate it into my ongoing novel. So the book helped me crystallize that thought.
Sorry for the tangent, getting back to the book, one more caveat – the author loses the plot a bit in the middle chapters. The beginning chapters about relativity and the power of zero were amusing and fun and the last two chapters on honesty is amazing, but the chapters in between was a bit of a drag.
Despite my mocking tone and slightly negative review, I will hurry to say that it is a very good purchase for anyone who enjoyed Gladwell’s books or others of that genre, and also for marketeers and businessmen and maybe even for policy makers.
Despite sugar coating the book with the requirements of this genre/industry, Dan does raise some poignant questions about human nature and consumer behaviour that is worth pondering over. In the final analysis then, I enjoyed the book and will read it again, and hence, five stars.
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